Group of diverse students outside in city, smiling and laughing with each other

A More Diverse College Search: How to Find Colleges With Strong DEI Efforts

How a school supports students of diverse identities is an important college search factor. Here’s how to evaluate a school’s diversity efforts.

When searching for colleges and universities and deciding where to apply, there are several elements to consider that differ depending on the student: location, cost, academic quality and programming, athletics, student life, professional development, and so on. Although these components of fit are most commonly evaluated and assessed, it’s also important to consider a college’s ideals and culture. It can certainly be said that not all colleges have a good track record of helping students of color and other minority identities succeed. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a great number of institutions today that have decent diversity reports. Here’s some guidance on how to find institutions that put in the effort when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Resources for a diversity-first college search

Diversity and identity should always be important factors for students while investigating universities and deciding where to go. This is a component of the college search process that is unique to each individual and vital to reflect on truthfully. When researching schools, you may want to focus on the following aspects of diversity within the student body:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Country of origin
  • Gender and/or sexual identity
  • Religion
  • Disability status
  • Sociopolitical beliefs
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Exposure to higher education

These aren’t the only criteria, but they are common and crucial. Some useful resources to begin your research include: 

Related: College Search and Scholarship Resources for LD Students

Topics to discuss with admission offices

Look for any information you can find regarding diversity on college websites. The visibility of critical diversity and inclusion information can sometimes indicate institutional importance and commitment to DEI objectives. Inquire with the admission and/or campus life offices regarding the following:

  • First-generation college student resources designed exclusively for you
  • Clubs and organizations as well as academic and student life offices related to your identity
  • Opportunities to communicate with professors regarding diversity and inclusion in curriculum and courses
  • Campus environment and culture, including how diversity and identity are recognized and explored and if students are empowered and included in activities promoting diversity and inclusion
  • In-person and virtual opportunities to get to know the school better

A critical look at college admission standards

If colleges want to take academic diversity seriously, they must realize that judgments about who is likely to succeed at their school are influenced by implicit bias and institutional racism. Students of color, in particular, are often mistaken as less likely to succeed because they haven’t been afforded the resources for success up to this point. To be a truly excellent academic institution, a college must be able to effectively serve any student who meets its admission criteria. And because students of color routinely receive disproportionately poor K–12 academic preparation, good institutions reorient their admission practices to recognize that education is about more than skimming from the “top” students. Many universities have been pioneers in giving resources to at-risk students through programs such as Summer Bridge, which allows students to acclimate to college life before the start of the academic year. Look for colleges that offer these types of resources to students who have notoriously not been given the chance to succeed.

Related: Q&A: Promoting College Success for Students of Color

There’s no magical technique for determining the best fit with a college or predicting what it would be like to join that community, but thorough study and asking essential (and often challenging) questions will take you a long way. When emerging adults begin their college experience, they’re taking a risk and committing to a school for several years. So be sure to factor in all relevant factors of your identity when looking for the right academic home.

Get going on your college search with our lists of featured schools that value and are dedicated to diversity.

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About Nivashini Saravanakumar

Nivashini Saravanakumar is a high school student with an interest in biomedical engineering. She loves to read, and her favorite book (as of right now) is My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Moshfegh. She also loves playing instruments including the piano and violin!


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